G3-MR-1-Commercial 1by Sanne Kure-Jensen
Visitors to farm-based food stores, cafes or restaurants tend to stay longer and spend more money according to Eric Nusbaum, Ph.D. of Wheelwright Consultants in Greenfield, MA, who led a workshop at the 2013 Harvest New England Ag Marketing Conference & Trade Show. However, growers considering adding commercial kitchens should still use careful analysis to confirm a viable market justifies the significant investment.

Be sure your business plan includes the cost of operational labor. Often laborsaving equipment is cheaper in the end. Be sure you have accurately estimated local market potential, a sound operational plan and a reasonable return on investment (ROI). According to Nusbaum, national average costs of kitchen and bar equipment range from $2,500 and $4,600 per restaurant seat. Purchasing used equipment can help reduce costs in many but not all categories. Be sure used equipment meets current fire and health department codes. Remember that used equipment will not generally have a warranty.
Designing commercial kitchens can be daunting with so many rules and regulations. All commercial kitchen equipment must be approved by the National Sanitation Foundation (NSF).
Residential ranges typically deliver 9,000 to 12,000 BTUs per burner. Commercial ranges can deliver 28,000 BTUs per burner and woks up to 150,000 BTUs. Properly rated commercial hoods are crucial for fire safety. Commercial ranges require fireproof insulation, heat shields or a 6 inch gap between their sides and any combustible surfaces.
Commercial coolers are made to be in kitchens with temperatures up to 95 degrees F. They can safely be opened every three to five minutes and cost two to three times the price of a home refrigerator. Temperatures must be monitored and recorded twice daily. Coils and fans need to be cleaned monthly.
Freezer temperatures must be at or below 0 degrees F. Ice cream dipping units should be kept at 10 degrees F. Units need to be defrosted and their coils and fans cleaned monthly.
Commercial kitchen designers should ensure wide doorways to allow for eventual equipment replacements.
Miscellaneous Equipment
Plan to purchase three times the number of dishes and flatware as seats. Smallware (cutting boards, spoons, pots and pans, etc.) will cost $200 to $250 per seat.
Food Safety
Local health departments must approve all food production facilities prior to construction and inspect twice a year thereafter. Wholesale operations are subject to federal regulations and inspections if the products are to be shipped interstate or if the foods contain meat products.
Federal regulations require cooked foods to reach minimum internal temperatures for at least 15 seconds. State and local regulations may be more stringent.
When foods will be stored after preparation or served cooled, they must be chilled before storage using this two-step process: Reduce temperature to 70 degrees F within two hours (not in refrigerator). Then cool to 40 degrees F in less than four hours.
Waste & Pests
Leak-proof, rodent proof and insect-proof containers must be used, emptied and cleaned regularly. Facilities must be constructed and maintained in a way that prevents insects, rodents, birds and other wildlife from entering. Self -closing doors should be installed and maintained at all entries.
Learn More
Learn more at www.wheelwrightconsultants.com or email Eric Nusbaum, Ph.D. at info@wheelwrightconsultants.com, call 413-774-2786 or 617-938-8668.
Part 1 of this article ran in the January Grower and focused on sizing and efficiency of commercial kitchens.